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What To Do When Elderly Persons Wander or Get Lost

One of the most worrisome symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is wandering. When seniors wander, it can be scary for caregivers who worry that their loved one will be injured and/or not be able to find their way home. Here are some things to know about wandering and how to help seniors who are prone to wandering.

Why Do Seniors Wander?

Although it can appear that seniors with dementia wander for no reason, there may actually be reasons behind the behavior. It could be boredom or anxiousness. Sometimes, the senior is searching for something familiar. You may need to keep notes about their behavior to find what is causing wandering to help find solutions. Just keep in mind that the person is not purposely trying to annoy you or a caregiver. It's part of their disease.

How to Help a Wandering Senior

If you see someone wandering and suspect that they may have dementia, approach them gently. Speak calmly and slowly without making the person uncomfortable. You should try to stay with them until you can call the police to help. If the senior doesn’t understand you, don’t repeat your questions.

Rephrase and use non-verbal cues to help them communicate. If you can take them somewhere to get coffee or a drink until help arrives, that can help someone stay calm. Seniors who wander will respond better to a calming attitude, so remain calm yourself.

What To Do If Your Loved One Wanders

If you are caring for a senior that wanders, you may have to get creative to prevent wandering. You can’t use physical restraints to prevent them from leaving the house. You might install an alarm on your home so when the front door is opened, you are alerted. A GPS tracking device might be another option. Medications aren’t a good restraint option either, because the medications can make someone drowsy and contribute to falls.

  • Identify resources in your community that can help find seniors.

  • Tell your neighbors so they can help when they see your loved one in the community.

  • Provide structured care throughout the day to prevent wandering.

  • Keep a current picture just in case your loved one does go missing.

  • Place cards with your phone and address in the pocket of your loved one.

If you need assistance taking care of a senior with dementia, contact Home Helpers of Drexel Hill. We can help you assist in finding solutions in your home to reduce the chances of a loved one wandering out on their own.